| Serena Williams, after her win, on Tuesday |
London: Returning to the court where she won her first Grand Slam championship a year ago, Petra Kvitova overcame a shaky start and a late rain delay on Tuesday to open her Wimbledon title defence with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Akgul Amanmuradova.
Four-time champion Serena Williams, meanwhile, returned to the same Court 2 where elder sister Venus was upset a day earlier and restored family pride by beating Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4.
The fourth-seeded Kvitova fell behind 0-3 and 4-1 in the first set on Centre Court before running off seven straight games to take command against the 96th-ranked player from Uzbekistan. After Kvitova squandered a match point at 5-3 in the second set, play was suspended and the covers rolled onto the court — the first rain break of the tournament.
When play resumed half an hour later, it took just three minutes to wrap up the match. After Amanmuradova won the first two points to hold for 5-4, the Czech player closed it out at love, hitting a service winner, two aces and forcing a backhand error.
Following Kvitova on Centre Court was two-time champion Rafael Nadal, and he found himself in an early hole just as she had. Nadal was down 0-4 in the opening set, but roared back to beat Brazilian left-hander Thomaz Bellucci 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-3. The Spaniard closed the match with an ace down the middle, his sixth of the day.
Nadal, coming off his record seventh French Open title, broke six times and had 35 winners and 18 errors. Having lost in last year’s final to Novak Djokovic, he is bidding for a 12th Grand Slam title.
“I’m very happy to be back on the best court in the world and winning,” Nadal said. “It’s fantastic for me, but I have to improve a lot for the next round.”
Play was later suspended for the day because of rain and poor light, leaving several matches unfinished. Three-time finalist Andy Roddick was leading Britain’s Jamie Baker 7-6 (1), 4-2 on Court 1 when the covers came on. Tenth-seeded Sara Errani, runner-up at the French Open earlier this month, was holding match point in the second set when her match against American qualifier Coco Vandeweghe was halted.
Serena Williams ground out a shriek-filled win over 62nd-ranked Zahlavova Strycova, a day after five-time champion Venus lost her first-round match on the same court in straight sets to Elena Vesnina.
“It always has some sort of an effect,” Serena said. “I always want to play even better if she’s out of the tournament.”
It was clear how much the match meant to the animated Serena, who screamed loudly in frustration after losing points and shouted “Come on!” and pumped her fist after winning big points.
Williams seemed to be in control after going up 3-1 and then 5-3 in the second set. But, serving for the match, she was broken back for 5-4. Williams broke again in the next game, letting out another scream after Zahlavova Strycova struck a forehand long on the second match point.
Williams, who extended her record to 13-0 in first-round matches at Wimbledon, finished with 24 winners and 12 unforced errors, compared to 17 winners and 13 errors for her opponent.
Last year, Williams questioned why tournament organisers assigned her and her sister to play on Court 2 rather than Centre Court, considering they have won a combined nine singles titles at Wimbledon. On Tuesday, she declined to address the issue.
Also advancing to the second round in straight sets was No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, the Australian Open champion who beat American Irina Falconi 6-1, 6-4. Azarenka reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year before losing to Kvitova.
In men’s category, fourth-seeded Andy Murray of Britain swept to a 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 win in gloomy conditions on Centre Court over Nikolay Davydenko, a former No. 3-ranked player from Russia who has dropped to No. 47. Murray, who has lost in the semi-finals here the past three years, is still carrying the pressure of trying to become the first British player to win the men’s title since Fred Perry in 1936.
Fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga took apart 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The Frenchman, who beat six-time champion Roger Federer last year to reach the semi-finals, broke the Australian once in each set and never lost serve.
Hewitt was one of four Australians in the men’s draw, and all bowed out in the first round. It marks the first time since 1938 that no Australian men have reached the second round at Wimbledon.
In early women’s play, No. 12 Vera Zvonareva completed a 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over Germany’s Mona Barthel in a match that had been suspended by darkness at one set apiece on Monday.
India’s Sania Mirza and her American partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands notched up a straight-sets victory and advanced to the second round of the women’s doubles.
The 13th seeded Indo-US pair defeated Russia's Alla Kudryavtseva and American Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 24 minutes at the All England Club here.
Sania and Bethanie converted five of the 13 break points, while their rivals broke two of the 10 opportunities that came their way. The Indo-US combo took 44 minutes to wrap up the first set after converting two of the three break point chances. In comparison, Alla and Sloane could convert only one of the six chances that they got. In the second set, Sania and Bethanie double faulted twice and also had more unforced errors, but they rode on their winners and better service. (agencies)